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BTC polls a warning for BPF, indicates vote realignment

POSTED ON 20 APRIL 2015

wasbir hussain
executive director, cdps & visiting fellow, ipcs

The Hagrama Mahilary-led Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) managed a victory at the just-concluded Bodo Council polls, bagging 20 of the 40 elective seats, down from 33 it won in 2010. Yes, the BPF won the Council polls for the third time in a row, but the verdict this time, if anything, is a clear indication of the realignment of support by the electorate in the four districts under the BTC.

The Bodo voters, who have been the core support base of the BPF, were presented with a fairly good alternate option this time in the form of the People’s Coordination for Democratic Rights (PCDR), a combine backed by 13 Bodo and non-Bodo groups who got the support of the influential All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU). That the PCDR won seven seats despite having fielded their candidates as independents is an indication of the dent the new force has been able to make in the Bodo heartland. Eight other seats went to independents outside the PCDR umbrella.

Another very significant development has been the impressive poll performance of the Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF. The party, almost a bête noire of the Hagrama-headed BPF, had fielded just eight candidates and managed to win four seats. Interestingly, two of the four AIUDF winners in the BTC polls are Bodos. The AIUDF show goes on to demonstrate the deep divide among communities in the Bodo Council area and the polarisation among Bodos, non-Bodos, and Muslim settlers. The recent organized attacks on Muslim settlers in the area is seen as the key reason for the rise of the AIUDF in the BTC area, a development that is bound to have greater consequences in the socio-political and electoral arena in the days ahead.

While the Congress drew a blank, the BJP managed to bag just one seat. This goes on to show that the national parties have hardly any base in the area and that the regional parties will call the shots during the State Assembly elections next year. The BPF had been an ally of the Congress in the past but whether they side with the BJP, if the situation demands in 2016, is left to be seen. The only party that has gained immensely out of the communal and ethnic machinations in the BTC during the past few years has been the AIUDF. Therefore, the AIUDF could well gain seats in the area even in the Assembly polls next year.

If this happens, the AIUDF’s overall tally is bound to rise much beyond 18 that it has in the Assembly now.The BTC results this time again has demonstrated that former insurgents who have signed deals with the Government may not always come to call the shots. The message holds true not just to BTC but to other autonomous councils in Assam or elsewhere in the North-east. The fact that a mass-based organization like the ABSU decided to lend its weight behind an anti-BPF force speak volumes about the governance report card of the Hagrama-led BPF since it first won the polls in 2005. What the BTC verdict has shown is that power should not make the BPF leaders more arrogant and that they have to be accountable to the people and deliver. After all, hadn’t they signed the BTC Accord to uplift the Bodo area and those who live there? Yes, the communal machinations and attacks must stop as well.

(Courtesy: The Sentinel )